Police have stepped up security surveillance in Nairobi after the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terrorist group threatened to carry out bigger attacks.
At the same time, the Israeli embassy in Nairobi repeated warnings of a global onslaught by terrorists, saying Kenya was among the countries targeted. Police said that Al-Shabaab, which has an active cell in Kenya, had threatened “to cause massive destruction in the city.”
Nairobi police boss Anthony Kibuchi urged the public to help identify potential terrorists and threats.
“Let us all remain extra vigilant and whoever sights any suspicious character, strange vehicle with strange characters or anything suspicious to report to the nearest security personnel without any delay,” he said.
Israel likened the attacks that occurred in Bulgaria, killing seven people, among them six Israelis, to planned attacks on Israelis in Kenya.
In Wajir, one blast went off at around 7.45pm at Dubai Shopping Mall and the second exploded about 400 metres away, while the one in Bulgaria was an apparent suicide bomb in a bus packed with young Israeli tourists.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “All signs point towards Iran. Over the last few months we have seen Iran’s attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other countries. This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it.”
Two Iranians — Mr Ahmad Abolafathi Mohammed and Mr Sayed Mansour Mousa — were arrested in Kenya last month and detained at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison on charges of being in possession of 15 kilogrammes of RDX, a chemical used in making bombs.
RDX is a more powerful explosive compared to TNT, the conventional ingredient for making bombs such as the one used in 1998 US embassy attack in Nairobi which killed more than 200 people.
In Nairobi, Mr Kibuchi said “vulnerable places” had been identified and more officers deployed to keep vigil, including the paramilitary General Service Unit personnel.
“We cannot be absolutely safe until we wipe out this (Al-Shabaab). We have heavy police presence in all areas, but the most effective way is to involve the public.
‘‘This is because when they (terrorists) come they stay with the people,” said Mr Kibuchi.
On Wednesday, a United Nations report that cited intelligence reports revealed that Al-Shabaab was planning grenade attacks at one of its offices in Nairobi.
“It is possible that the increase in media reporting on UN aid to Amisom forces as well as on security at the Dadaab refugee camps could have contributed to raising the profile and priority of the United Nations as a potential target,” the report says in part.
Al-Shabaab launched terror attacks in Kenya after Kenya Defence Forces entered Somalia in October last year.
At least 19 attacks have occurred since with grenades being used in most of them.
Nairobi has been hit four times, most recently when a fertiliser bomb exploded at Assanand’s House on Moi Avenue, injuring 36 people in May.
Last month, the Israeli PM said “Iranian terrorism knows no borders” and, alluding to the arrests in Kenya, added: “After Iran sent its agents to murder the Saudi ambassador on US soil, the country has now engaged in attacks in Azerbaijan, Bangkok, in Tbilisi, in New Delhi, and now we have just discovered a plot for a terrorist attack in Africa.”
On Thursday, the Israeli embassy in Nairobi called on the “entire international community to openly condemn terrorist attacks, to stand firm and remain vigilant against them, and to send a clear message to countries that support and back terrorist organisations, that these type of acts will not be tolerated.”
In court, the two Iranians said they had been interrogated by agents of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. The Iranian embassy in Nairobi denied the accusations that the two were part of a Tehran-sponsored terror network that planned attacks on Israeli interests.
America’s Associated Press reported that the two Iranians are believed to be members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, an elite and secretive unit that acts against foreign interests.
Last week, the United States embassy announced that the country’s government employees had been prohibited from travelling to North Eastern province, where most of the terror attacks have happened, and also cautioned its citizens from making unnecessary visits.
Israel’s accusations against Iran put Kenya in an awkward position, especially at a time the government was warming up to new relations with Tehran and had to bow to US pressure and cancel a deal to import Iranian oil.